The Villa, on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, requires reservations, which you can usually get online a day in advance in the winter, but more advance planning would be advisable at other times. Admission is free, but they do charge 15 dollars/vehicle for parking. The collection features antiquities of Greek, Roman and Etruscan origin. They are housed in a “campus” of buildings loosely based on the architecture of ancient Pompeii. Tours and films (and occasional lectures and symposia) are available free of charge and are listed in a little handout “Today at the Getty Villa”; early arrival is recommended to get the best selection. Flocks of docents, guards, and other staff are constantly at hand. The cafe is nice and the gift shop well-stocked.
Getty Center, which includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, is roughly ten times the size of the Villa. It is located in LA on the 405 just north of Sunset Blvd. Reservations are not required, admission is free, though there is a charge for parking. Closed Mondays and major holidays. The architecture (by Richard Meier), location and views are spectacular. A brief orientation film is shown continuously in the Museum entrance hall. The collections include a wide variety of art including photographs, sculpture, paintings and furniture. The modern era is under-represented. While the Impressionist collection is impressive, it is really in the medieval and religious collections that the Getty is unique among large American museums. Tours, lectures and other events are listed in “Today at the Getty Center”, available free in the Museum entrance hall. Audio devices are available to rent for $5, but are not necessary for the average tourist; the exhibits are largely self-explanatory. Food and beverages are available all over the campus. As for the Villa, the ideal plan would be to arrive at the Center early, have a pleasant and scenic lunch after a couple of hours, and wander about as long as the feet hold up, finishing at the gift/book shop. You can’t see it all in a day, unless that is your goal.